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The march of the politically correct – reshaping our language

By Russell Grenning - posted Monday, 7 May 2018

In 1887, Oscar Wilde wrote of England's relationship with the USA, "We have everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language."

But the language gap is narrowing at an accelerating rate as the strictures of political correctness demand that any word or phrase which has been perfectly good and understandable for generations must be changed and changed now if it has even the remotest possible cause for offence. And the warriors for this reshaping of our language insist that even if there is no immediate offence to anybody there could be some offence imagined somehow, somewhere and at some time so it is best to be careful and nip it in the bud.

American universities, always in the forefront of so-called progressive causes, are leading the charge although British, Australian, Canadian and other English language universities are not far behind. The truism that what happens in the USA will eventually happen elsehere has never been more starkly or immediately illustrated.


Almost any American university could be chosen at random to prove the point.

The University of New Hampshire is typical. It has on its website what it is pleased to call a "Bias-Free Language Guide" and it is so extraordinarily Orwellian that even its own President Mark Huddleston has admitted that he is "troubled by many things" that it contains. But, of course, he hasn't demonstrated any leadership by throwing it - or even bits of it – into the bin. That, as I am sure he knows, would be a career destroying move. It would be almost as dangerous as saying something nice about President Trump.

According to the University's website, the guide "is meant to invite inclusive excellence in (the) campus community". An utterly bewildering list of words is condemned as being "problematic". Of course, nowadays we must take it as settled fact that any word containing "man" is primitive, sexist and reactionary so "chairman", "mailman", "manpower" and many other "man" words have long been consigned to the dustbin of history.

But the language Nazis had only just begun with those early victories.

Apparently, there is a gravely serious fear of "ciscentrism" which the university defines as a "pervasive and institutionalised system that places transgender people in the 'other' category and treats their needs and identities as less important than those of cisgender people". "Cisgender people are men who identify as men and women who identify as women – at least 99% of the community and including straight and gay men and women.

"Ciscentrism includes the lack of gender-neutral restrooms, locker rooms and residences," the university thoughtfully explains.


The word "homosexual" is out and should be replaced with "Same gender loving" (why use only one word when three will do?) because that is more "inclusive" and even describing a US citizen as "American" is wrong because it "assumes the US is the only country inside the continents of North and South America". "Illegal alien" should be "undocumented immigrant" or "person seeking asylum" and "Caucasian" is definitely bad because, we learn from the university website, the notion of race is "a social construct ... that was designed to maintain slavery". It should be "European-American".

The words "mother" and "father" and any words derived from them are simply too awful because they "gender a non-gendered activity", "healthy" is out in favour of "non-disabled" while "handicapped" or "physically challenged" should be dumped for a "person who is wheelchair mobile". "Rich" should be "person with material wealth" while "poor" should be a "person who lacks advantages that others have."

"Overweight" is rejected because it is "arbitrary" as is "senior citizen" or "elder". The list goes on and on.

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About the Author

Russell Grenning is a retired political adviser and journalist who began his career at the ABC in 1968 and subsequently worked for the then Brisbane afternoon daily, The Telegraph and later as a columnist for The Courier Mail and The Australian.

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